Originally posted February 11, 2013 on Runners Health:
Over the past two decades or so, we have been told repeatedly that we should have our recovery drink within 20 minutes after our workout or race. Taking it two hours or more afterwards was considered much too late, almost useless.
To rehydrate as soon as possible feels indeed right, but to have a lot of carbohydrates and proteins on a still contracted stomach can be a bit over the top.
Alan Aragon and Brad Schoenfeld reviewed all the evidence in the latest issue of Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, and concluded that a healthy diet and the usual eating habits are usually enough for a good recovery.
During a hard bout of exercise, you use your glycogen stocks and you disrupt muscle fibres, and as your glycogen stocks are getting empty, you start burning some proteins. During your recovery, you have to rebuild your reserves and repair the damage. Normally your body will “overdo” it, which means that your stocks will become slightly lager and the new muscle fibres stronger. Thanks to a correct balance between exercise and recovery you are becoming a better athlete indeed.
Immediately after a workout that has depleted your glycogen reserves, your muscles are craving for glucose, and they can take up much more than otherwise. During the first hour you are therefore able to rebuild your reserves much quicker than at any time afterwards. If you have your carbohydrates two hours later, the rate of glycogen rebuilding will be 50% slower.
Taking in glucose leads to an increase in blood insulin levels. Insulin is a hormone necessary for the uptake of glucose by cells. It also decreases muscle protein breakdown, and studies have shown that muscle protein breakdown can rapidly increase after exercise. Higher insulin levels are thus beneficial if you want to build up your muscles.
Several studies have shown that adding a small amount of proteins makes the process even faster. It would also give you the opportunity to start rebuilding damaged muscles fibres. Proteins are made of amino acids and one of them, leucine, acts as a signal to start the re-synthesis process.
You will have rebuilt your glycogen stocks within 24 hours, even if you have not been able to have a recovery drink within the first hour. Your new stocks will still be slightly larger than the previous ones; it will only have taken much longer to build them up. The advantages of replenishing them very quickly are not clear. It is certainly important for athletes participating in a multi-day event and for those who want to repeat the same exercise within about 8 hours, but it does not matter if you are taking at least 24 hours rest.
The results of studies about the value of amino acids supplements after exercise are controversial. They are very difficult to interpret properly, because they all use different set-ups and products.
In theory, a recovery drink containing amino acids and carbohydrates (leading to high insulin levels) would promote protein synthesis and decrease its breakdown.
On the other hand, after a normally healthy mixed meal it takes insulin at least 3 to 6 hours to drop back to fasting levels, and the amino acids blood levels remain increased for about three hours. It is therefore likely that after your workout, you will still have everything you need in your blood to start your recovery. Having your next meal one or two hours later will be fine.
However, if you train more than three to six hours after your last meal, you will benefit from a carbohydrate-protein recovery drink.
Further research is necessary to fully understand the interplay of pre- and post exercise meals. Moreover, most studies have been carried out on untrained volunteers, and the needs of well-trained athletes might be different. Some studies even suggest that age also influences what you need for an optimal recovery.
What is your experience with recovery drinks?
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I think people go overboard on recovery drinks but depending on the circumstances I will take them. Always protein and creatine after lifting, but I will swig 8 or so ounces of some gatorade or powerade after a 10-mile or longer run or if I was sweating buckets. What's funny is I have never thought of downing a protein shake after any type of endurance exercise. If I ever decide to start running more than four miles at a time I might try it for a couple of weeks to see what happens.
This...is my boomstick.
Coming from a weight lifting background as well, I tried post-run protein drinks during my first year of running and honestly, I didn't really notice a difference.
Now in my third year of running, I don't really have a recovery drink after most of my runs. The first thing I go for is water, then about a half hour later I will eat an apple, orange or a banana etc. There are times when I will drink 8 ounces of silk, but the days of post-run high carb or protein drinks for me are long gone.
The jury is still out on whether this is a good strategy or not, but to this point, I cannot say that not having a traditional recovery drink (4:1 carb to protein ratio) post-run, has been to my detriment.
I'm not a fan of thinking I need to drink anything special in order to do what your body naturally does best all by itself, recover and restore, with a balanced diet. We feel the "need" to drink immediately after strenuous activity for thirst but eat? Usually not until we have calmed down a bit do we feel that urge. Overthinking our body processes is like telling evolution(remember, we humans have been physically active, even more so in history, than we are now) that it doesn't know what it is doing. We survived and thrived many thousands of years, all without special recovery drinks or special potions. Unless you are malnourished, I see it all as hype mainly.
We are built for activity and self recovery. We are omnivores for a reason, balanced diets are the way our bodies work best if we just let them.
After my morning runs, I drink a 20 oz bottle of water, I shower and then in 20 minutes or so, eat 2 scrambled eggs with 1/2 an Italian sausage. Then about an hour later, I have a granola bar.
My evening runs, I eat before as my family does also. When I get back, I shower and then about 20 minutes later, have hot chocolate and oatmeal cookies with my hubby. On Saturday mornings after my LR, I shower and by then it is lunchtime. We go somewhere and I am famished! I eat whatever sounds good wherever we go. I don't make it a point to have X protein or Y carbs. I guess I just think my body is smart enough to know what it needs and when it needs it....evolution and such.
I guess I see it as something that comes and goes, a fad, sortof like fats are bad, then eggs are bad, then carbs are bad, etc. The more we try to outthink nature and processes, the more we muck it up.
JMHO. I am not en elite runner nor a scientist nor a doctor.
Smaller By The Day
Very interesting stuff.
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Never used them and don't ever specifically say to myself "I just worked out I need to eat or drink XXXX"
I just healthy healthy food, mostly whole grains and fruit/veggies, lean protein and healthy snacks when
I'm hungry. I try my best to plan them around with my runs/swims/rides in mind for proper preworkout
fueling. Other than during long runs or rides I'm generally eating something about every 2 hours.
I always eat breakfast and I mean ALWAYS and I never run in the morning without eating.
If I'm hungry when I come home after a workout I will try and eat a balance of whole grains and some
protein along with water. If I"m not hungry I wait until I am.
I just try to keep it simple and healthy. I'm 51 and been running for 14 years, half marathons for 10 years,
cycling for about 20 years and have now added some pretty heavy duty swimming to my schedule as
well as currently training for another full marathon. I've only had 2 injuries in those 14 years that lead to
more than a few days off running.
I'm very healthy and have lots of energy (obviously or I wouldn't be able to do all that), rarely have muscle
soreness and recovery quickly.
What I've always done seems to work fine for me so I've never seen a need to get into recovery drinks
or whey powder or anything like that.
5k-25:29 5M-42:27 10K-54:10 1/2 - 1:57:44 FULL - 4:10:48
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I usually time the end of a run to coincide with a meal. Crisis averted. In practice, if I don't eat and rehydrate shortly after any type of exercise I experience more soreness and fatigue the rest of the day and the next day. Your body may be able to replenish stores in 24 hours with regular diet but why not help it along? Account for the calories and whatever you may track and let your body get down to recovery as quickly as possible. I don't recommend protein shakes or anything like that. Whole, unprocessed food plus water is always best.
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Delving into the journal article itself, it looks like using that window of glycogen supercompensation would be most important if doing lengthy doubles.
fight me irl, brah
Is this going to turn into another chocolate milk meltdown?
I seem to do well with some fruit after a hard or long run, altho I do occasionally indulge in some chocolate milk. Most mornings after my run I have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, sometimes eggs.
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With regard to the article, after most of my runs I shower and head straight to work, leaving me with around 2 hours between run and first meal of the day. Hasn't killed me yet.
i used to eat peanut butter and banana sandwiches after weight lifting because I believed it was essential for recovery and muscle growth. I'm sure that did absolutely nothing for me, except put in extra sugar and fat into my system. Probably why i was fat and developed early stage type 2 diabetes.
NBT nailed it with "My evening runs, I eat before as my family does also. When I get back, I shower and then about 20 minutes later, have hot chocolate and oatmeal cookies with my hubby."
Hot Chocolate and oatmeal cookies are the perfect post exercise recovery drink and fuel. Whose body wouldn't welcome that combination.?
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” - T.S. Eliot
I will typically do the chocolate milk thing immediately after a hard workout such as a set of intervals or a tempo run. When something is being done by all of the Kenyans, it's hard to discount the usefulness of the practice. (Not that they are drinking chocolate milk but I have read several articles mentioning that they eat something immediately after most runs). Plus, I have found that drinking the chocolate milk helps to prevent me from pigging out later.
Short term goal: 2:59:59 (November, 2013)
Mid term goal: Any race over 80% of top AG standard
Long term goal: To say I've been a runner half my life. (I started running at age 45).
I drink 8 oz of chocolate milk after my 2-hour long runs because it may aid recovery....but mostly because I like it and it's my reward.
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